I love biology. One of my undergraduate majors was biology and I have a PhD in biology. If you really understand the subject, it gives you a perspective on life different from most people’s. For example, most biology majors end up taking either a parasitology or an epidemiology course for their undergrad degree. And slowly, as the semester progresses, you are transformed from a happy, well-adjusted human into a Howard Hughes-like recluse, afraid that all your food is teeming with worms and every door handle is a germ-smeared death sentence. (Ah, the memories!)
But eventually you get over it, rediscover sushi and get on your life. And if your life includes brewing, you have some absorbed some information that can help you become a better brewer. I believe one of the biggest benefits of having a biology background is a simple thing — understanding how small bacteria are.
Bacteria are small. Most are just a couple microns across. Brewers yeast cells, which are also small enough to be microscopic, are about 10 times larger than all the standard wort-spoiling or beer-spoiling bacteria. With 40X magnification, you can see yeast cells fairly well with a light microscope. (If the cells are not stained, turn the back lighting way down.) With 100X magnification (the next highest power on most light microscopes), most (stained) bacteria look only slightly bigger than a dot.
Now, just for some scale, let’s compare this to a speck of dust. We’ve all been in a room with a ray of sunshine coming in from a window and we’ve all seen specks of dust floating in the air. The size of dust particles depends on what the dust is made of, but if they are big enough to be visible, but small enough to stay aloft in a mostly still room, they are probably between 50 and a 100 microns — i.e. 10 to 20 times larger than bacteria....